Other Opinion: Can budget reallocation fix policing?


The Minneapolis City Council has said it will consider disbanding the city's police department. But what does that really mean?

Dozens of proposals for police reform have surfaced throughout the country in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police. The most dramatic proposal would break up police departments altogether.

In general, the "defund" model would take money from existing police budgets and invest it into communities, mental health services and social service programs. The U.S. spends an estimated $100 billion on police forces annually, and people expect them to do a lot, from fighting terrorism to responding to drug overdoses, from welfare checks to homeless services, often without added training.

Advocates of the defund model say that taxpayer money would be better spent on other agencies that address the issues that lead to crime, such as homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness.

But defunding isn't the only possible course of action, and few seem ready to go down that road. A Yahoo News/YouGov poll finds that only 16% of Democrats and 15% of Republicans favor reducing law enforcement budgets, let alone eliminating departments altogether.


Some fear that crime would increase if the thin blue line were erased. They say eliminating SWAT-style units, revising use-of-force guidelines and expanding training will address many of policing's issues. Without a doubt, the biggest challenge for police will be building, rebuilding and maintaining relationships with their communities. In particular, their communities of color.

Many stakeholders will be looking to influence the transition. Police unions will likely want a say, the Legislature plans to address it during its special session, and Congress is sure to get involved.

Though the protesters have chanted that the time for talk is past and the time for action is now, there will likely be a lot of talk in the near future. Minneapolis council members say it will take months to determine what a city without a police department might look like.

Defunded or not, policing is going to change in Minnesota. Let's act, but in a deliberate way. Let's have a plan so that all citizens, no matter their race, ethnicity or religion, know that laws are being enforced fairly and equally. George Floyd has shown the world that that's not the case right now.

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